Ira Aldridge:: The Early Years, 1807-1833

Overview

Ira Aldridge: The Early Years, 1807-1833 chronicles the rise of one of the modern world's first black classical actors, as he ascended from an impoverished childhood in New York City to a career as a celebrated thespian on the British stage. After a successful debut in London in 1825, Aldridge began touring the British provinces, billing himself grandiloquently as the "African Roscius," and attracting crowds with his powerful presence and style. He received accolades not only as a tragedian in classic roles such ...
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Ira Aldridge: The Early Years, 1807-1833

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Overview

Ira Aldridge: The Early Years, 1807-1833 chronicles the rise of one of the modern world's first black classical actors, as he ascended from an impoverished childhood in New York City to a career as a celebrated thespian on the British stage. After a successful debut in London in 1825, Aldridge began touring the British provinces, billing himself grandiloquently as the "African Roscius," and attracting crowds with his powerful presence and style. He received accolades not only as a tragedian in classic roles such as Othello and Oroonoko but also as a comic actor in popular farces and musicals. In 1833, when a bill to abolish slavery was being debated in Parliament, he was called back to London to perform at one of the city's most prestigious theaters, where his appearance, now under his own name but also billed as "a native of Senegal," created a great deal of controversy. In dealing with Aldridge's emergence as a professional actor in the United Kingdom, Lindfors here records in detail the ups and downs of his itinerant existence in a world where no theatergoer had ever seen anyone like him on stage before. Aldridge was genuinely a unique phenomenon in Britain at a pivotal point in history. Bernth Lindfors is Professor Emeritus of English and African Literatures, University of Texas at Austin, and editor of Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius (University of Rochester Press, 2007).
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Meet the Author

Bernth Lindfors is professor emeritus of English and African literatures, University of Texas at Austin.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1 The Lives of Ira Aldridge 4

2 Family Matters 17

3 Life in New York City 23

4 Charles Mathews and James Hewlett 47

5 A Gentleman of Colour 61

6 The African Tragedian 75

7 The African Roscius on Tour 95

8 A Fresh Start 112

9 A New Venture 129

10 Expanding the Repertoire 138

11 London Again 160

12 Playing New Roles 174

13 Pale Experiments 190

14 Dublin 208

15 Racial Compliments and Abuse 221

16 Re-engagements 232

17 Shakespeare Burlesques 245

18 A Satirical Battering Ram 253

19 Covent Garden 261

20 Other London Engagements 274

21 Moving On 287

Notes 291

Selected Bibliography 363

Index 365

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